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Our sustainability focus is across the entire ecological footprint and shapes our daily business strategy, says Infosys

Rohan Parikh, Head of Green Initiatives and Infrastructure at Infosys, talks to Sustainability Outlook about the company’s efforts at shaping a holistic approach to sustainability.

Rohan M. Parikh heads the Green Initiatives and Infrastructure team at Infosys and is responsible for driving goals which include reducing the per capita energy consumption by 50%, sourcing 100% of the electricity from renewable sources, becoming carbon neutral including transportation related emissions, becoming water neutral, recycling organic waste, preserving and promoting biodiversity and engaging employees in all of the above goals. Mr Parikh holds a master’s degree in Civil engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Can you highlight Infosys initiatives in the areas such as biodiversity, e-waste disposal and building infrastructure to conserve energy and water?

Our sustainability focus is not on just one particular aspect of sustainability, but on the entire ecological footprint. Infosys continuously looks for ways to reduce its operational footprint and set the tone on how organizations can become sustainable. We clearly recognize that climate change will be one of the challenges in this century, and the opportunity in front of the corporates, instead of the government, to make the first move in terms of changing the planet. At Infosys we have looked at 5 different areas of sustainability. First was energy efficiency. We decided that we should reduce our per capita energy consumption by 50% in 10 years, and we started our journey in Jan 2008. Next we embarked on becoming carbon neutral from an energy consumption standpoint – fundamentally this means that whatever balance energy we consume should only come from clean and renewable sources. . The third area that we looked at was ways in which we can offset our transportation related carbon emissions, because that is a key part of our business function; whether it is employee commute or business travel. We have set a timeline of 2017 to achieve these goals.

Infosys, like any other IT company is growing at a very fast rate, and we are adding about 3 to 4 million sq. feet of floor space each year. We are making conscious efforts to ensure that this floor space meets the highest standard of green building norms. All our new buildings at the minimum have to meet the platinum standard as per the LEED norms. We have a dedicated team within Infosys to design these high efficiency green buildings. Most of these new buildings are exceeding our own expectations by 40-50%.

In terms of renewable energy, we are creating a new concept of green utilities by signing contracts with entrepreneurs who are supplying green power. Today 10% of all our energy consumption comes from renewable sources. Our goal is to sign contracts that will ensure 20% of our energy consumption is sourced from clean energy by end of this financial year, and over the course of the next few years we intend to source 100% from renewable energy sources.

We are also looking at technology that will help us generate on-site renewable energy. We have set up a few test solar plants, totaling about 0.3 MW across Trivandrum and Jaipur, where we are now generating some amount of renewable energy on-site. We have also been harnessing solar energy for all our hot water needs, and we have an installed capacity now of 600 thousand litres per day, which is used to heat water for all our training facilities and hostels across India.

We are also trying to become more sustainable when it comes to water consumption. All our campuses have facilities for rain water harvesting, and we are using technologies that will help us recycle the water multiple times. We use the same resource multiple times. We have a policy of zero-discharge. So the water never leaves our campus, instead we use it for irrigation or landscaping.

We also ensure that all our e-waste is disposed in a responsible manner. We are working with a vendor name E-Parisaraa to manage our e-waste. In order to avoid a case of green washing, we audit our vendor to ensure that they are disposing off our e-wastes responsibly. E-waste management has also become a part of our procurement strategy, and we avoid buying equipment that may have harmful chemicals or minerals. Energy efficient equipments that are ROHAS compliant are favored during procurement.

There is a significant amount of food waste from the cafeterias on our campuses. So now, we are setting up a biogas plant to ensure that the waste is recycled properly. The food waste, that we prefer to call organic nutrients, is used as fertilizers; and the biogas is used for cooking. We currently have a trial biogas plant in Mysore, and once it proves to be successful, we will replicate it across all campuses.

Can you discuss some of the sustainability related goals that Infosys had set for the FY 2010-2011? What targets have you met so far?

Since January of 2008 to March of 2011, we have achieved a 23% reduction in energy consumption. We hope to achieve another 7-8 % reduction in the FY 2011-12. We also have a team focused on bio-diversity, and the goal is to plant 1 new native tree for every new employee who joins the Infosys team. The water consumption has also reduced due to planting these native trees, as they are already adaptive to the terrain and do not require excess irrigation. Over the course of the last few years, we have also seen a trend of a variety of migratory birds coming to Infosys campuses, due to the lakes and ponds (our rainwater harvesting projects), native trees etc.

Do you have formalized trainings for employees to change behavioral patterns in order to become more sustainable?

When Infosys hires, the new employees undergo a 20 week induction session. In this induction session, we introduce our company philosophy and practices regarding sustainability. But now, we also have an ongoing online training for employees to stay up-to-date on how they can make behavioral changes as and when required.

Every year, Infosys publishes a Sustainability Report based on the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative, and also meets the UNGC principles – Can you highlight some of the core principles that ensure the report meets the ‘Application Level A+’?

Across all the three areas – economic, social and environment; Infosys is reporting on most of the GRI reporting points, and not just the bare minimum. We catalogue everything that might be important for our stakeholders to know, based on our industry, and report on those points thoroughly. Among the many areas that we cover are: energy consumption, water consumption, carbon emissions, compliances etc.

On social and economic side, we report our procurement and HR practices, labor practices etc.

We are trying to be as transparent as possible. Currently we are reporting on our sustainability practices only once a year. However, over time we hope to report them as much as quarterly, similar to our financial reporting.

Det Norske Veritas AS (DNV) was commissioned by the Infosys to carry out an assurance engagement on the Infosys Sustainability Reports for the last couple of years (2009-2010 and 2010-2011 report). Can you elaborate a little on the scope of assurance and the verification methodology? How does this component of third party verification set you apart?

It’s a standard methodology that DNV follows for verification purposes. Based on the points that we report on, DNV representatives spend over 2 weeks on our campuses auditing, doing preliminary analysis across all reporting points and then doing interviews. They visit various campuses validating with different stakeholders on what we have reported.

In your personal opinion, what role do you think the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector plays in setting standards for a sustainable future?

ICT plays a critical role because it affects every industry. ICT helps industries by dematerializing and also via automation. We enable data driven logic to improve efficiency and optimize every resource that every industry uses.

Has Infosys been able to shape any business offerings for your clients viz. their Sustainability imperatives? What kind of solutions and/or services do you offer on this front to the clients and in which industry verticals?

Infosys has been providing dematerializing services to its clients right from the very beginning, by sheer elimination of paper for every work. We now have a sustainability vertical at Infosys, and the principle focus for that is starting from consulting to implementation. We took some of the tools that we used to improve the internal sustainability practices, and took it to the market. More information can be found on our website.

Incorporating green practices in the supply chain is an ongoing goal that Infosys has set for itself – can you illustrate the kind of areas where have you been able to implement this? Also what are some of your current vendor awareness and training practices?

We created a green procurement policy within the company, and distributed it to our top vendors. Our current focus is to educate our top 10-20% of vendors, as they enjoy about 80% of our procurement budget. The goal is to create awareness among the vendors on what the company’s beliefs and policies are, and to see how they can be compliant with our needs and policies.

In the first phase, we have provided the vendors with a timeline of 2 years to ensure that they become 100% compliant to our green procurement policy. We have started training some of these top vendors in what our requirements are.

Our sourcing strategy has also changed. For example: if we are buying steel, we are specifying within the procurement the percentage of recycled material that needs to be there, or if we are buying wood, we are specifying which forest it needs to come from. We are also trying to see if we can procure materials within a 500Km radius, so that emission related to transportation can be minimized.

With the changes that we have made in our procurement policies and practices, many vendors may not even qualify anymore. A lot of our vendors are governed by performance clauses. Hence one can say that these sustainability policies have become a part of our daily business strategy.

This interview has been conducted by Roselin Dey from the Sustainability Outlook Team.

Author: Roselin Dey
Calais Document Category: Business Technology Law Labor Human Interest
Industry Term: energy transportation e-waste